Japanese Employee Dies from Exhaustion – How ‘Salaryman’ Culture Affects the Workforce

Japanese Employee Dies from Exhaustion – How ‘Salaryman’ Culture Affects the Workforce

The circumstances surrounding the death of 31 year old Miwa Sado have just been made public, though she passed away in 2013. Sado was a political reporter, and an overworked one at that – which it has now been revealed was the cause of her death by heart failure. NHK (Sado’s former employer) reported that she had worked about 159 hours of overtime in the month before her death. This means that she was working in just one week what most full time employees clock in a full (two week) pay period.

Stories such as Sado’s are not unfamiliar to Japanese culture – they even have a special term for it, “karoshi” which translates to “death by overwork”. The term was originally coined in the 1970s as Japan’s economy boomed. Labor lawyers and civil rights groups have been pressing for legislative change since the 1980s, but the trend has continued in spite of this.

In December 2015, a similar tragedy took place. Matsuri Takashi, a 24 year old employee of Dentsu, an advertising agency, jumped to her death from the company dormitory. “Ms. Takashi’s death was caused by serious depression triggered by overwork and harassment,” Hiroshi Kawahito, a lawyer representing her case, told CNN Money. In the month leading to her death, Takashi clocked about 105 hours of overtime, according to investigators. After concluding its investigation, Dentsu announced that they would be capping overtime hours to a maximum of 65 per month.

But how do work hours measure up across different countries? According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work an average of 137 hours more per year than Japanese workers. The United States is arguably the most overworked developed nation in the world – and it comes down to more than just hours worked per week.

  • The United States is the only industrialized country which has no legally required annual leave program – even Japanese workers are required to receive 10 days off per year
  • The United States is not one of the 134 countries which sets a limit on maximum hours worked per week
  • There is no federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States
  • The U.S. is the only country in the Americas without paid parental leave (maternal or paternal) to care for/bond with new children – the average in most other countries is 12 weeks of paid leave and 20 weeks of paid leave throughout Europe.

 

Sources:

https://20somethingfinance.com/american-hours-worked-productivity-vacation/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/10/06/japan-struggles-karoshi-death-overwork-after-deaths-2-young-women/738915001/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/05/news/japan-work-overwork-woman-dies-karoshi/index.html

Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Seeking Legal Help for Sexual Harassment

You’ve done your research, you’ve become familiar with your company sexual harassment policy, and you’ve come to the conclusion that you are being sexually harassed. Now what? What steps can you take to make sure the sexual harassment stops, and what are your options if it doesn’t stop? These are very important questions and how one finds the answers determines whether there will be a positive outcome.

Taking the steps to stop sexual harassment begins in the workplace, and may or may not end with legal action. The steps taken and decisions made at every point in the process can make seeking help easier if those steps and decisions are the right ones. If legal help is eventually needed and sought, there are some things that need to be done early. Once sexual harassment is suspected or identified, the victim needs to immediately report the activity to Human Resources. It is also important to speak with a trusted friend or advisor and detail the activity. One important action that can be taken is to keep any and all emails and or recorded messages which will be of great help during a future case. Experts continually stress that there is nothing more important in a sexual harassment action than thorough documentation of the activity and actions taken to counter it.

Seeking legal help for sexual harassment can be an intimidating process. The first step is to investigate the many law firms that practice employment law. Luckily in our modern world, this research can begin online, where information is readily available about potential representation. You should look into reviews from clients, the type of law the firm practices, the number of attorneys who practice employment law in the firm, and how many years of experience they have in employment law. During this consultation, it will be important to have an open and honest conversation with the attorney about the sexual harassment claims and actions taken. It will also be important to present the evidence gathered over time in order to make the best possible case and lead to the best possible outcome.

Contact Aegis Law firm directly at (949) 379-6250 or learn more about our sexual harassment services https://www.aegislawfirm.com/ca-employment-law-practice-areas/orange-county-los-angeles-sexual-harassment-attorney/

DFEH Approves New Transgender Protections and Guidelines

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has approved new guidelines and protections for transgender people in the workplace to be effective July 1, 2017. The new amendments aim to clarify existing law and further the protection of transgender people from discrimination at work. The new legislature provides transgender rights including equal access to bathrooms and other facilities, freedom to dress differently than what is typically associated with one’s gender, and the ability to withhold information regarding one’s name and gender to the employer. Below is a detailed list of the expanded areas.

  • Definitions:
    • The new amendments elaborate on the definition of key words including gender expression, gender identity, sex, sex stereotype, and transgender.
    • The document also adds onto the list of terms with the word “transitioning”, which it defines as “a process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This process may include, but is not limited to, changes in name and pronoun usage, facility usage, participation in employer-sponsored activities (e.g. sports teams, team-building projects, or volunteering), or undergoing hormone therapy, surgeries, or other medical procedures.”
  • Restrooms:
    • The regulations state that employers must provide “comparable, safe, and adequate” access to facilities, and the employees shall be permitted to use the facilities that correspond to the employee’s gender identity or expression.
    • Single-occupancy facilities must use gender neutral signs.
  • Employees will not need to provide proof of medical treatments to use a facility of a gender different than their assigned sex.
  • Employers cannot condition “fringe benefits” upon an employee’s sex or gender identity.
  • Employers may not force employees to dress according to their gender identity, unless the employer can prove that it is a necessity to the business.
  • Recording of Gender and Name: Inquiries that directly or indirectly identify an individual on the basis of sex, including gender, gender identity, or gender expression, are unlawful unless the employer establishes a permissible defense. For recordkeeping purposes, an employer may request an applicant to provide this information solely on a voluntary basis.
  • An employer is allowed to use an employee’s gender or legal name as indicated in a “government-issued identification document” if and only if it is necessary to meet a “legally mandated obligation”. Otherwise, the employer must use the employee’s gender identity and preferred name.
  • Additional Rights:
    • It is unlawful to deny employment to an individual based wholly or in part on the individual’s sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.
    • It is unlawful to discriminate against an individual who is transitioning, has transitioned, or is perceived to be transitioning.
    • It is unlawful for employers and other covered entities to inquire about or require documentation or proof of an individual’s sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression as a condition of employment”
      • However, an employer may assert a Bona Fide Occupation Qualification defense, which is the defense that the employer only considered qualities that he or she is legally allowed to consider when deciding to not hire or fire someone.
      • In addition, an employer may discuss with an employee their sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression if the employee initiates communication.

Background

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) protects California citizens from discrimination and enforces laws regarding unfair treatment in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Regarding employment, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from discrimination because of race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, age (over 40), disability (mental and physical), sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and military or veteran status.

If you have been subject to discrimination at work, please call 949-379-6250 for a free consultation. For more information on how to obtain a sex discrimination attorney, see our page on the topic.

Full Fair Employment & Housing Council Regulations Regarding Transgender Identity and Expression

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing

Sexual Harassment Attorney

The Signs of Sexual Harassment Are Not Always Obvious

Sexual Harassment: It’s possibly the most serious issue in the workplace. When sexual harassment occurs it disrupts the workplace, is costly in terms of morale/productivity, and leaves emotional (or sometimes physical) scars that can ruin careers. For employees, it is extremely important to recognize when sexual harassment is happening, and to know what can be done about it.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, it is not always obvious that sexual harassment is occurring. Most employees can recognize obvious sexual harassment. An employee that is being touched inappropriately or groped has a strong argument for being sexually harassed. The same goes when an employee’s co-worker consistently uses sexually suggestive language, whistles or makes other lewd noises, gives inappropriate gifts, tells jokes of a sexual nature or attempts to show that employee pornographic material. Often, the individual engaging in such behavior will laugh it off as a joke, or suggest that everyone is just part of the same group of friends and no one should take such action or language seriously. The fact is that sexual conduct, language, or insinuations are never appropriate in a workplace and most companies have written policies making that clear.

Sexual harassment does not stop at explicit words and actions, though. Often, employees are in an atmosphere of sexual harassment and don’t recognize it. Sexual harassment can be against both women and men, and some policies and even court decisions are starting to use the term “gender harassment” to cover inappropriate language or actions based on sexual orientation. Sexual harassment based on one employee’s sexual attraction to another is what most people think of, but often one employee may not like another because they are female or male, or because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. In those instances, sexual harassment may be harder to recognize.

In those cases, sexual harassment could take the form of demeaning language or a situation where an employee finds themselves constantly berated. They might be excluded from groups or major company initiatives and/or given fewer assignments. In companies where there are multiple offices and locations, an employee may suddenly be relocated, often to an office or territory that is less desirable. Instead of being excluded from good assignments, an employee may be given a very difficult, often impossible assignment. In these cases, sexual harassment is subtle and based on a dislike due to gender, and often designed to get an employee to quit.

What can an employee do if they feel sexually harassed? Experts advise not to quit, but rather fight back. This is not easy, and requires research and perseverance. Begin by finding, reading, and understanding the company policy against sexual harassment. Report any uncomfortable instances immediately in writing. In many cases, it is a subordinate engaging in behavior that can be construed as sexual harassment, so if a company has an HR department, make the complaint to them and not to a direct supervisor.  Reporting will often initiate an investigation, and anyone who feels sexually harassed should understand that a company must be an impartial agent, and investigate all accusations, interview all parties and listen to all sides. This is where perseverance comes into play. Continue to report instances and create a paper trail that shows a pattern. Ideally, the situation is resolved and the work environment improves. But in many cases, things don’t turn out that way. Anyone who suspects they are being sexually harassed can and should seek legal advice to protect themselves and their career.

If you are looking for a sexual harassment lawyer to protect your rights contact us for a free case evaluation at (949) 379-6250.

minimum wage

Minimum Wage Hikes: A Solution to Income Inequality?

Initiated by fast-food workers in New York City, the Fight for $15 is a nationwide movement advocating a higher minimum wage. This push for wage hikes has steadily gained prominence; As of 2017, 30 states have raised their minimum wages to amounts higher than the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. The disparity in minimum wage rates across the federal, state, and city levels is stark. With national movements like the Fight for $15, with increasing income inequality among the bottom 50% of Americans, and with so many state-led policies raising the minimum wage, why is the federal minimum wage so low, and why has it been stagnant since 2009?

Conventional supply-and-demand analysis, and popular opinion, suggests that the minimum wage has a negative effect on employment. However, real world results prove otherwise.

The fast-food giant, McDonalds, claims that its recent wage hikes have resulted in improved customer service, and thus, increased sales. The company’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, started implementing changes in 2015 to try to improve McDonald’s profit margins and customer traffic. In addition to closing weak stores and simplifying the menu, Easterbrook raised the wage offered to his workers to about $10/hour. He did so in the hopes of incentivizing better customer service and streamlining company changes. It seems to have done just that. McDonald’s US president, Mike Andres, remarked that the wage hike, “has done what we expected it to—90 day turnover rates are down, our survey scores are up—we have more staff in restaurants. So far we’re pleased with it—it was a significant investment obviously but it’s working well.”

A similar wage hike by Walmart further reveals the advantages of increasing the minimum wage. From 2015 to 2016, the retail company spent about $2.7 billion on higher wages for hundreds of thousands of its store workers. Its new part-time wage is $10.58/hour, while full-time workers earn $13.38/hour. Like McDonald’s, Walmart decided to increase wages in the hopes of improving customer service and retaining workers. It seemed a necessary step, to incentivize workers who have increasing responsibility, “in a tightening job market, at a time when working in stores is getting more involved.”

Since its wage hikes, Walmart has reported six straight quarters of sales growth, an increased number of shoppers, and improved customer service scores. Not only do the higher wages increase company profits, but they also make workers better off, and thus stimulate the greater economy: The more you make, the more you spend, the faster the economy grows.

What the cases of McDonalds and Walmart prove, is that an increased minimum wage should be considered more seriously, both economically and politically. In their groundbreaking paper, Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States, economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman found that the US is deeply unequal; The top 10% alone, own almost 50% of all pre-tax national income. What they report, however, is that raising the minimum wage can help reduce income inequality.

They found that, if the minimum wage is low, like in the US today, then raising it can actually raise employment by raising labor supply. A higher minimum wage makes it more attractive for low wage workers to start work, which increases their productivity, and stimulates growth.

Thus, with technological progress, globalization, and tightening job markets, minimum wage is an important factor of equality in the wage distribution. For the US to combat further economic inequality, policy changes must be made – starting with the federal minimum wage. As Walmart CFO Brett Biggs stated, a higher minimum wage has a domino effect, in that, “associates feel better about what they are doing. They feel obligated to the company to return that investment.” Thus, politicians and business executives weary of paying workers a higher wage need only think of it as a “business investment” for the country – as a necessary step on our way to economic growth and equality.

Sources:

http://fortune.com/2016/03/09/mcdonalds-wages/

http://fortune.com/2016/03/16/walmart-wages/

Distributional National Accounts